When I get an email to do a phone interview with someone attached to an upcoming television show or movie, I usually don’t do it. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people on the phone and share about their new project, it’s more about time. When I got an email last week asking if I’d be interested in covering a story on Jaime Primak Sullivan, the creative producer and star of the new Bravo reality show Jersey Belle, I actually went and watched the trailer, and instantly loved what I saw and wanted to see more.
Jaime is not only the star and producer of Jersey Belle, but she is also an entertainment publicist, working with actors such as Wayne Brady, Chris Klein as well as many brands. She’s a wife and mother to 3 kids under the age of 6. Being a girl from Jersey and making a life for herself in the South surrounded by her southern belle girlfriends, Jaime isn’t afraid of being herself, and knows the feeling we all dread, feeling out of place. Here’s some of our conversation to help answer a lot of the why’s of Jersey Belle. But first, take a peek at the trailer, so that way when you read this interview, you can read it with her very heavy Jersey accent and get a sense of her. It’ll make you love and appreciate this piece even more!
Bravo’s Jersey Belle with Jaime Primak Sullivan Interview
About 5 minutes before I called Jaime I pulled up her information again to see if there was anything I wanted to ask before getting on the phone. Not really ever knowing what a phone interview will be like, I was ready with some questions, but really hoping it was less formal of a call. It was.
“Dear God never let this feeling get old!” she started the conversation. “This is surreal to me that it’s really happening to me. Are you a mom, Tara?”
Yes, I have two teenage girls.
“Then you know, but I feel I should say that (being the most important thing in life), but THIS is like the most proud I have been on any project I’ve ever done and I have been in the entertainment business for almost 13 years. Just to think that I worked so hard. Every step I told them that I had to be a producer on the show. Bravo almost never gives first year talent producer credit. But it was my show, I sold it. It is not cast. It’s not like it usually happens when a production company or network has an idea for an unscripted show, and then they try to cast it with the most outrageous people they can find. That’s not how Jersey Belle is at all. It’s my show, my idea. I researched production companies and found one that had a good relationship with Bravo and knew how to do a successful program. I wanted a production company that knew how to do a singular talent show. I loved Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis, and I feel like that production company is authentic. They really got it and really know how to do a show that isn’t an ensemble. And I reached out to them and pitched them the show and told them, the only place this show will work is on Bravo. If there wasn’t an offer from Bravo, then it wouldn’t have worked for me.”
“I prayed about this every step of the way. I am a publicist. I am very type A and a control freak. I kept saying if it’s meant to be, it will be. Rejection is God’s protection, so if somebody says no at some point then it’s not meant to be. And to think that it all worked out, and here we are, it’s just so surreal to me. May this feeling never get old!”
It’s interesting to me since you work with celebrities you know very well what it’s like to be on the other side of this business being in front of the camera, so what is it like now to be the celebrity?
“It’s weird because a lot of the people I am doing interviews with I’ve worked with over my career as a publicist with my clients. But let me tell you, my clients are so supportive that it makes it so easy to get out there and sell. I am selling a very different product. Jersey Belle is the first comedy that Bravo has ever done. It is not a cast show.”
A publicist owning her own business, Bridge and Tunnel Entertainment, means she is currently representing clients in the entertainment industry. Since she is doing public relations, brand building, and event planning on top of making her reality show, she knew she wanted to make something they would be ok with.
“It’s a show and a concept that even my clients can support for it’s not damaging in any way. Does that make sense?”
Yes, there is a lot of “trash” attached to reality television, and after watching the trailer I can see the difference in what you are trying to do, which is great. It’s like a breath of fresh air into reality tv, and I think that is very cool.
“What you just said is what I have been praying for. You get it! We are all moms that want to be entertained. We want to have a glimpse into someone else’s life. We love that Voyeuristic element of reality television.”
“What sets Jersey Belle apart is that it’s women going through real experiences, but instead of tearing each other down we are lifting each other up. And I think that is a fish out of water element. I mean I am a Jersey girl. I am a turnpike loving, Bruce Springsteen fan, Bon Jovi life obsessed – Jersey girl. And then put me in the most appropriate, elegant part of the south, I mean there aren’t any Honey Boo Boos where I live. This is not Duck Dynasty, this is the absolute best of the best in the south. So you take someone like me with a very low level of appropriateness, and put her where the expectations are that women will be appropriate all the time. It is hysterically funny! The culture is so different and it’s all so real.”
I always feel that on reality shows, there’s got to be some type of script…maybe not the words, but the situations.
“As a producer of this show, Tara, I am telling you, NOTHING is contrived. And you will see that as you watch the season. I can’t be molded, it’s not who I am. And I moved to the south when I was 30. People from there are groomed to be this way from the time they are one. I am raising children there and I am expected to raise southern belles. And I have the first girls in my husbands family for 72 years! Talk about God having a sense of humor!”
“What 72 years??”
“Yes! There were 13 boys and then my daughter was the first girl that came. So my mother-in-law has all these southern belle daughter-in-laws, and then me. And I am the one with the girls. I’m like, “Are you freaking kidding me?” How am I supposed to raise southern belles when I can’t even take myself seriously at all? I took that “Don’t sweat the small stuff” literally, I just never do.”
How did this all come about?
“When I left LA everyone said my career was over. Publicists are a slave to the industry. First ones on the red carpet and the last ones to leave. You find a lot of publicists are single because their jobs are so demanding. It’s really hard to find balance. So when I told my friends in PR that I met someone and I was going to get married and move to Birmingham, everyone was like, your career is done.”
“I felt sorry for myself for a little while, but then I decided, “you know what?” that is bullsh*t. If you want to be a writer, you get up everyday and write. You want to make brownies, you get up everyday and make the best brownies you can because you know you can. If you want to be a publicist then get up everyday and find one client that will work with you no matter where you live or what you do. All you need is one. That whole Jerry Meguire thing, I totally get it, I really do.”
“People would then see me on the red carpet and say, ‘Didn’t you move to Birmingham’, and I’d say, ‘yes, that is where I live. I just flew in.’ And they want to know how am I doing this job from Birmingham. Then people started saying that I should do a reality show about being a publicist about living in Birmingham, but I didn’t think that would work. But what the funnier angle is not so much what I do for a living, but the fact that I love everyone and I talk to everyone and to move me there, that is what’s funny. If I can get people to see that, and I can give them a bird’s eye view into the best of what the south has to offer, well that’s the show.”
“For me, I’d fit better with a Honey Boo Boo type of a situation. The throwing spaghetti against the cabinets and make it stick, they don’t care, and I could deal with that. Where I live, it’s just different. They smile through everything and I am the one that says, ‘this sucks.’ So when I thought about this, and how this could be a show and then saw the response from my colleagues, they all said that it would be so funny. Since there isn’t anything like this on television, they wondered how I could do it. I said I bet I could do it. Let me see if I can do it. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I just got so lucky it just worked.”
Bringing reality to a different level where you don’t have to be tearing each other down, it’s inspiring and I am thrilled to have something better to watch.
“Everybody has walked into a room and feel like they don’t fit in. Everyone has felt that before. I am going to do that all the time while my kids are growing up. I am the mom in the leather jacket. I am the mother with the big hoop earrings. I am the mother that will be singing Bon Jovi at the top of my lungs in the minivan. I am THAT mother and I will always be that mother. So what I can do to show my children to inspire them and let them know that mom is ok being exactly who she is. Because look, we all grow up sorta thinking our parents are weird.”
“There’s this expectation in the South that girls will marry their college sweethearts and be good wives, and homemakers. But I don’t need that for my girls. I never want to project that on them. What I want them to know is, I don’t care what you want to be, what your situation is or where you want to live. For me, I am raising girls in an environment that I am not completely comfortable in.”
What message do you want to share in why this is the show to watch on Bravo?
“I hope people will give it a chance. It’s not about making fun of the South in any capacity. In fact, if anything, it’s making fun of me. I am the brunt of most of the jokes. I want to speak to the people that have ever walked into a room and they are the one person that didn’t fit in. I feel that’s kinda the universal insecurity in all of us.”
“My mom once said, ‘Why do you need to fit in when you are born to stand out.’ I told her, ‘I don’t stand out, I stick out!’ She gets that now. “
I really enjoyed my time chatting with Jaime. I am sure now you can easily see why. She’s funny, has her heart 100% in this project and I feel that from the looks of it, and from everything she has shared with me, this truly will be a different kind of reality show. I am looking forward to getting that bird’s eye view of Jaime’s life.
Jersey Belle premieres on Bravo Monday, August 4th 10/9 central.